There’s something special about two ingredients that have no business even being in the same neighborhood of one another combining to result in something great. Remember that month in 2008 when self-respecting people re-purposed neckties to wear as belts? Last week, thousands of pounds of chocolate-covered bacon were consumed at the Wisconsin State Fair. TWO cast members from the 1987 film Predator went on the serve as Governors of American states. If one band in town can be dubbed “The deep-fried Snickers of Milwaukee music,” it’s Galactic Cannibal—at least for a few more days. Saturday night, the short-lived punk-rock experiment that pairs peppy pop-punk musicianship with utterly pessimistic lyrics being bellowed by a self-described sasquatch of a singer will reach its conclusion, as the band plans to call it quits.
Formed in the summer of 2012, the project pulled in members from a mishmash of Milwaukee bands including Direct Hit! and Moss Folk, with a specific focus on the aggressive avant-garde experimentalism of noise-rocker-turned-singer Peter J. Woods.
“I thought the idea of a pop-punk band with a bear for a fucking singer screaming about shit sucking the entire time would be great,” Direct Hit! singer/guitarist and original Galactic Cannibal bass player Nick Woods says. “Every single pop-punk band on the planet has this ultra-positive message right now about community, and togetherness, and building something. I said, ‘Fuck that. It would be way cooler if it was just as negative as possible.’”
In under 10 practices, Galactic Cannibal wrote enough material to populate a nine-song release, 2013’s We’re Fucked.
“When Peter just started recording his vocals, we all said, ‘Oh man, this band’s not going to be very good, is it?’ Then we let it sit for a little bit and everybody fell in love with it,” drummer Ryan Bollis says. “I didn’t know that kind of intensity from him, aside from really experimental performance stuff. This was pure adrenaline and aggression—and he’s doing it for a pop-punk band.”
With songs like “Hate Everything More,” the oddly upbeat suicide anthem “Air Runs Dry,” and “Take It From Me, Everything You’ve Ever Done Is Fucked Up & Horrible”—each buoyed with the standard smattering of “1, 2, 3, 4”s and riffs seemingly fashioned to accommodate pogo-jumps aplenty—We’re Fucked toes the line of infectiousness and intensity, catchiness and chaotic catharsis.
“It was kind of interesting being back in that realm and trying to write hooks for songs,” Peter Woods says. “I haven’t written a hook for a song in years. It was kind of a stretch and kind of interesting to be in that dynamic. It was cool to do something new like that.”
Firmly entrenched in the noise scene, as well as his role in a metal band (Mountain Language) and jazz outfit (Peter J. Woods Free Jazz Ensemble) with Bollis, Peter Woods relished the unfamiliar role of frantic front man. He’s known to take a method approach to his part in this experiment, always frowning, having a propensity to form tackle unsuspecting members of the audience, once having a sound engineer confiscate a microphone after he spiked it on the ground, and almost exclusively taking the stage sans shirt.
“I love playing with Peter. He’s super focused, dedicated and insane, which is great—especially for a singer,” Bollis says. “He doesn’t give a shit about anything. Anything he wants to do he’s going to do, which is super refreshing.”
Last fall, the subversive side-project was officially thrust to the back of every member’s mind when Nick stepped away from the band to focus entirely on frequent touring and writing new material with Direct Hit! (of which Cannibals guitarist Steve Maury is also a member). Meanwhile, the younger Woods and Bollis’ other projects took priority in their lives as well, which effectively stalled Galactic Cannibal below the 20-show plateau with no promise of the band picking up. Recently, it was decided an understated (but in no way quiet) mid-bill slot on an August 16 show at the Borg Ward would be Galactic Cannibal’s final outing.
“Having this project not being the main project for anybody, it was always something we could very easily step away from. It was just sort of a fun experiment for us to try and see if it worked,” Peter Woods says. “We can do that again, but why try to replicate the experiment when we already have that album? It seems like a decent place to stop it.”
Though the band never made a splash locally and managed to accomplish only marginally more nationally (people are reportedly driving to the final show from Michigan, Illinois, and as far away as Pennsylvania), Galactic Cannibal gave its members a new outlet to step outside the familiar, and allowed two siblings a forum to connect sonically.
“It was awesome. My brother and I never had a project that we worked on together, mainly because his interests are so different than mine are artistically,” Nick Woods says. “I was really excited to do a project where we could figure out a way to meet in the middle.” He claims listeners will be able to hear a distinct Galactic Cannibal influence on the next Direct Hit! record.
If Saturday’s crowd snatches up the remaining copies of We’re Fucked, about 400 LPs will be in circulation. Barring an unlikely reunion, Galactic Cannibal will simply eat itself Saturday. The experiment will be over, its results will be disputed and filed away. Someday, maybe someone new will happen upon the functionally clashing nine-song effort and take something from it. If not, it doesn’t seem to matter to the band.
“I don’t think we ever got to do enough to make that huge of an impact. I don’t think any record makes that big of an impact because in the end, everybody’s fucking dead and the Earth is going to get eaten up by the sun someday anyway,” Nick Woods says. “But I don’t know, I hope people stumble on it.”
Galactic Cannibal will play its final show Saturday, August 16 at Borg Ward as part of the all-ages “Punk Rock Grill Out,” which also features Direct Hit!, Burning Sons, Population Control, Jetty Boys, Foreign Lawns, Manger Danger, and Skate Goat. Grilling starts at 4 p.m. and music begins at 6 p.m. There’s a “pay-what-you-can” cover.